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Friday, March 29, 2013

Loco Moco, with a twist

Hey, it's Hawaiian food, the most natural Fusion cuisine in the world, they have borrowed from just about every cuisine in the world, to come up with something that speaks just to the island. But, I wanted to try out a new rub, then there was the fact that this dish normally lacks any vegetable matter at all. I was going to eat this for dinner, so it needed something. I came up with this.

Da' Grinds!

For starters, you need some rice, easy enough, standard Japanese rice cook implemented, then the hamburger patty. I went with a local source, grass finished Northcoast beef, with a rub from Ted & Barney's. They are a local Humboldt County butcher shop turned rub merchant. In the bottle, it looks a lot like salt and pepper and not much else. I figured it would be close to a Santa Maria-style rub. I seasoned the meat, with what I thought was too much rub, small shaker mishap, as it were. Still forge on, assume it will be too salty, I guess. Let the rub sit for a bit, while other prep work was done. A little Japanese, a little American, a little Humboldt County influence.

Too Much Rub?

I also wanted those greens, so I prepped up some baby Pak Choy, some yellow onion and a couple cloves of garlic. This was to be a fairly simple stir-fry, really trying to let the pak choi shine with a little garlic kick. California/Chinese influences here.

See, Healthy

Done, still crispy

Then there was the gravy, normally it should be a beef stock/base type of gravy preparation, but, that would be too easy. So, I went with some bacon ends for fat and flavor, and cooked them slowly to aid in building a fond in the pan, then flour, onions, lots of black pepper, and parsley were added to create some depth of flavor. A mixture of 25% milk and 75% water to bring the gravy to the proper thickness. Going for the Southern influence here.

Mmmm, not so healthy

From there, all that was left was assembly, a ring of rice, the pak choi in the middle, then burger, gravy and the required fried egg on top. I have to say, I decided to test a chunk of the second burger plain, and the Ted & Barney's rub was surprisingly not over-applied, it was nicely balanced and for something with just four ingredients, it was more than the sum of it's parts. I will probably go ahead and try it on a tri-tip at some point. It will definitely have a spot in my rub box.

Standard blogger too close to the food shot

I love runny eggs and rice, the seasoning on this was spot on, with the simple greens adding both a needed crunch and vegetal edge to the dish that is otherwise lacking. Overall, even as it is a Fusion dish, apparently a dirty word in professional kitchens, each of the flavors was well developed and individually strong, but, added to the whole. It's good eating, sort of Island-style.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Smoked Pork Rib Ramen

What to do with leftover ribs, especially after eating them for two meals. Well, I like to make a basic broth from smoked meats from time to time. So, ramen seemed like a good idea, and it would be lighter than how I have been eating. A good choice all the way around.

A Bowl of Noodles
Although many ramen snobs of late love to talk of the noodles, the key to me, for a great bowl of ramen comes down to the broth and the tare. One of the problems with using smoked meats for broth is that they actually produce an overly smokey, and consequently, simple tasting stock. Things need to be added. I built the broth with the use of blackened scallions, ginger, garlic, three bones of the smoked ribs, and a few flavor enhancers.

I started with 3 bones from the leftover rack of ribs, these were boiled at a full boil for 15 minutes, water being added as needed to keep the pan filled. As could be predicted, the resultant liquid was smoky and porky, two high notes then nothing. I had blackened some scallions, the white parts only, to add a bit of depth and color. The entire bunch was blackened then coarsely chopped and added to the broth.

Need more burn!

I decided to go a little more fragrant, so added 2 cloves of garlic, cracked, and about a teaspoon sized chunk of ginger, smashed, as well as 3 shiitake mushrooms. This was all reduced to simmer for 15 minutes, then an additional layer of flavor, in the form of shoyu and fish sauce, about 2 tablespoons of each. This last addition was both about salt and umami. That being done, I added 1 cup of the broth to a small pan, added in four shiitake, 1 teaspoon of Agave syrup, 2 more tablespoons of shoyu and a teaspoon of Tonkatsu sauce. This was both to cook the mushrooms and make the tare, a flavorful syrup, which adds punch to the broth. I reduced the tare by 2/3, once the mushrooms were cooked and removed. At that point, I added some toasted sesame oil, just a little.

The Broth, about halfway there

The Tare, ready to go

From there, it was time for the other elements...
 Shiitake mushrooms braised in tare

Wilted bean sprouts

Kale, braised in broth

The mushrooms were slice, the bean sprouts wilted just enough to reduce the beany quality they can have, although these were quite fresh. The kale was a last minute substitute. I had wanted Mitsuba, but none could be found, so I wanted Mizuna, which I found, but, when I opened up the bag, it was bad, so on to the kale, which was leftover from last week, and which apparently does not go bad very fast at all. Things were assmebled in the bowl, along with a few shreds of the ribs.

Ready to be drowned

From here, just pour the broth on, add the tare and I opted to add some rayu (spicy sesame oil) and Yuzu-Pao, sort of a Sriracha with Ponzu added condiment. I add the tare both before and after the broth, the get more flavor into the mix.

The Broth shot-payoff time

Hopefully, you can see that the tare is still coating some of the toppings, and you can see the broth has a nice color. The overall effect was of a rich, lightly spicy and complex broth, supported by vegetables and noodles. I have not talked much about the noodles, although I love hand made noodles, I truly believe that chuka soba barely cooked, or fresh chow mein noodles from the store do just fine in supporting the broth and tare. And as for the kale, it worked great in ramen, who knew?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Gyoza Night, home made skins

So, I decided to make gyoza, that most famous of Japanese dumplings. And to make it more interesting, I decided to make it with home made dumpling skins. I have a couple of recipes, and it could not, on the surface, be any easier. A basic hot water dough and some quick kneading. The dumpling skin is based upon a rather simple Chinese noodle recipe, that involves nothing more than water and flour.

Dumpling Skins:
2 cups all purpose flour + 1/2 cup for dusting and such
1-1/4 cups boiling water

Basically, after boiling the water, I added about 3/4 cup of the water to the 2 cups of flour, mixed this together to form a dough, I found that I needed about 1/4 cup more of the water I had allowed for. Once this came together, and it is a dry dough at this time, I turned it from the bowl and kneaded it for around 4 minutes (this was a mistake). Once this became somewhat smooth and elastic, I divided into halves and wrapped in plastic to rest. After a one hour rest, I rolled each half into a long snake, and evenly cut it into 24 pieces. Here is where I got lazy and gave into the call of my KitchenAid pasta rollers. Each piece was rolled into a ball, given a quick smash by hand them rolled through the machine. I should have gone thinner, more on this later. Here is what I ended up with.
So Far So Good

They are far from perfect, hey, it is my first time. Lessons learned, I over kneaded, the gluten just would not relax, the dough was a little tough. Also, I prefer a thinner skin than these, the problem was that gluten. I think next time, I will knead for maybe 1-2 minutes.

To the stuffing, I originally thought these would be vegetarian, but, once I decided to go with home made skins, I ditched the experimental vegetarian stuffing and went with my usual pork and shrimp dumpling stuffing. Essentially, just a load of veggies, ground pork and finely minced shrimp. I prefer the texture a little loose, so all the vegetables are hand cut.

Dumpling Filling:
1/4 pound ground pork
1/4 pound wild shrimp, finely minced
2 cups chopped cabbage
1/4 cup finely chopped carrot
1/4 cup finely chopped scallion, white parts only
5 medium Shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped

3 tablespoons Mitsuba, Parsley or Cilantro
1-1/2 teaspoons corn starch
2 cups water
3 tablespoons shoyu
2 tablespoons sake
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Red Boat fish sauce

Mix the cornstarch, pork and shrimp together. Set aside. In a small saucepan, combine liquid ingredients and add mushrooms. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove mushrooms and finely chop for stuffing. Reserve mushroom cooking water. Combine all vegetables, mushrooms and meats, season with 2 tablespoons of the mushroom cooking water that has been reduced by half. Set aside to cool.
Dumpling Filling

From here, the assembly goes painfully slowly if you are me, and it goes quickly if you are one of those dexterous people. You can see that the filling I use is a coarser texture and it not as agglomerated as many commercial versions, I like the texture and the way the flavors are not all mashed together in a food processor. In any event, except for the over-developed gluten and thickness, it was a lot easier to work with fresh wrappers. They folded and sealed much better and once I get the kneading down, this is the way to go. Here they are all in all their rustic, irregular glory.
Into the pool everyone

The process from here, is pretty straightforward as well. I used a very good non-stick pan, I like the Bialetti pans, best non-stick I have found. A little oil to brown the bottoms of the dumplings, then once brown, throw in about 1/4 cup of water and cover to steam.
Browning nicely

I ended up using two pans, and this went pretty quickly. The overall cook went exactly as expected and the dumpling skins cooked up as expected. Despite their obviously excessive thickness. I also think I don't like the folds on my gyoza, won't do that again. Still, it was good food.
Gyoza, Kimchi, Rice and Dip

A nice dipping sauce was assembled using the mushroom cooking water, some vinegar and a little extra sugar, and a dash of sesame oil to add body. Some chopped green onions were added as well. On the plate, you can see I drizzled some Togarashi Rayu oil over the gyoza, I also decided some kimchi and rice was in order. I love the sweet/salty/savory/heat that rolls through the palate with these combinations of foods. The kimchi also brings sour and crunchy to the plate, really hitting all of what we love in food to the plate.
In Section

'Here you can see the thickness, this is actually acceptable for things such as potstickers, but, I prefer a thinner skin for gyoza. Still, the texture was excellent and the flavor was right there. The overall taste was balanced with the vegetables being up front and center, the meat added depth and complexity. Overall, this was delicious, the next batch, I know just where to go.